Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Many Happy Returns

This story was written in response to #1 of the prompts set forth HERE by Chuck Wendig.  Enjoy!


Many Happy Returns


Having secured the exclusive patronage of the same familiar gaoler, the removal of her mental bonds was a relatively simple process, though lengthier than she had anticipated. 
There are stepping stones to all the great Powers of posthumanity; in reaching Mind Control, one treads the unsteady path of Suggestion; navigates the labyrinthine caves of Emotion, Empathy, and Sympathy. Prisoner A1 – that's Alpha-1, so-named based on tenor, not tenure – is no exception to that rule, even in spite of the awe-inspiring ease and grace with which she mastered her Powers; at the tender age of fifteen, no less. Despite her prowess in the manifestation and mastery of her Empowerment, A1 didn't just start wandering in to peoples' heads, traipsing through thought and mucking with memories. Those were dangerous places to be, whether the invaded were Empowered or not; even the run-of-the-mill human mind has countermeasures against being read and controlled: particularly of the 'taste your own medicine' variety; often a surrender of one's own control. Sometimes worse: total shutdown, the psychic equivalent of a weaponized EMP burst. 
No, A1 learned the subtleties first. The power of repetition; the means of indoctrination, so that when the time comes to go traipsing; mucking, the invaded mind doesn't know the difference between its own thoughts and those of the outsider, digging for secrets.
So it's no surprise to her when the guard leans over in the Mess, amidst rows of docile, restrained Empowereds, and (with hands that have beaten Alpha, and several Alphas before her, to bruised, bloody, sobbing heaps; hands that have 'processed' and 'searched' her, invading every orifice) turns the key in her headgear, lifting it off ever-so-gingerly. With that gentle motion, it's as if he is lifting Lucifer, welling the wings of the Fallen; to reascend, and cast God from His seat. Alpha isn't shocked in the least, but the guard is, when, upon looking down for an instant – less than that, a milli-instant – at the object in his hands, the realization hits... 
...a second too late; a moment before the burst of psychic energy; origin: Alpha's freed mind, exploding throughout his anti-crowd armor, makes ivory smithereens of every augmented bone in his body, as he crumples to the floor with the breathless exhalation of death. 
Nonchalantly, she stands from the stainless bench and – with her first thought – disengages the locking mechanisms along the route to her destination, while – with the second – rewiring the brains of the panicked officers and Repressed inmates in her immediate vicinity, affecting a change into what 'the experts' dubbed a 'Berserker' state: homage to some no-doubt lovely group from human history. 
A1 called it her Red Flag: she wagged a mental finger, and the rage-filled cattle went charging. The throng of newly enraged fighters surges upwards, and outwards, consequence of Alpha's mental insistence that they stay away: spit, blood, and teeth; the brawler's trifecta spills in every direction as fists and trays swing within the brutal melee. She walks serenely toward the exit of the Mess, a halo of psychic force encircling her; the crowd ebbing with her every step, their rage undiminished, perhaps galvanized, by the canisters of noxious vapor exploding around them. The gas is no threat to her; sub-consciously, as she inhales, her body transforms it in to harmless air. Not so for the Repressed, as soon as the gas reaches beyond the limits of Alpha's manufactured bloodlust, they will collapse in to sleep-like stupor.
Though they have expelled the most of their payload, she grips the spent grenades with her mind; thought formed into snaking, grasping tendrils, and flings them up toward the guardsmen on the walkways above. Her Red Flag's luster fading, she reels in some of the force surrounding her, allowing the crowd a closer proximity, hoping the guards would lose her a bit longer in the sea of bodies. From their perch, the gassers continue their nerve-dulling rain, barely thwarted for an instant by her returned projectiles. For an instant, she contemplates tearing the walkways from their anchors in the ceiling and endangering everyone beneath. As if in answer to her unspoken question, a man is caught directly by one of the propelled canisters, half his face torn away by the velocity and heat of the blow. Knowing naught of his innocence or guilt, she can only feel so much sympathy, but she has used the inmates enough; any more loss on their part would be unacceptable.
As the last of her cover falls, the Wardens arrive; dressed head to foot in a heavy, matte black metal that seems to blur in the low-light, making the ordinary gaolers seem children playing in cheap, imitation costumes. Four in all; the two in front carry heavy batons; 'dimsticks'; they can release nerve gas, or a hell-of-a-lot of voltage, whatever necessity dictates. The two behind have rifles at ready, should the 'dimstick' twins fail.
“Threat identified,” a static-y, metallic voice quips, one of the riflemen, already underestimating her, “Isolating and restraining.”
The twins take synchronized steps forward, and she hits the lights; it's not much, but it's time enough – a half-second until their low-light visuals kick in. She moves in low and close – the armor blurs because it vibrates; it vibrates at such a frequency as to offer protection against psychic attack. No system is perfect, and she's broken it before, when she escaped; the first time she was caught, and the time after that.
And this last time she was caught? That was no mistake, either. But it's not just the thrill of beating the Wardens of the Milieu that keeps her coming back.
Rifleman two drops; the one that quipped: mask open now, there's a hole in his chest, just the size of her fist. He gurgles; throaty laughter, “Stupid bitch … wrong way.”
“Trust me – I know the way in. I left someone here a while ago – just came to get him back.”